International organisations often claim to represent huge numbers of people. For instance, the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC): "represents 207 million workers in 163 countries." This is no doubt true, in terms of the logic that is usually used in making such calculations. i.e.
1) Working people join unions, which seek to represent them;
2) Unions join national federations, which seek to represent them;
3) National federations join global confederations, which seek to represent them;
4) Therefore, working people are represented by global confederations.
However, as communications workers we often need to raise some rather delicate questions. For instance:
• How many working people have ever heard of the ITUC?
• How many are in agreement/disagreement with ITUC policies?
• How many have sent communications to or received communications from the ITUC?
• Is awareness and approval of ITUC work increasing or decreasing over time?
These are not rhetorical questions! They need to be openly tabled and addressed.
In the case of the ITUC, there is an extremely limited budget. As an organisation they will never be able to run massive advertising campaigns, a la Coca Cola. Nor should they: the ITUC is seeking to change things, not to sell things. Effective political campaigning is not a subset of marketing.
What then? How can global organisations create change? It is a logistics problem that very few organisations have ever admitted to, yet alone solved.
One of the few success stories in this field is Avaaz. Whether you agree with their left/liberal view of the world or not, it must be acknowledged that they have done fantastic work in terms of mass communication and campaigning. Just as importantly, for our purposes, the have done so on an extremely limited budget.
A few facts:
1) The Avaaz community has almost 50 million members;
2) It is 100% member-funded;
3) It has less that 70 staff worldwide:
4) It operates in 15 languages;
5) It has been responsible for several of the largest petitions in world history;
6) Campaign ideas are tested weekly through randomised 10,000-member samples:
7) Each year, overall priorities are set through all-member polls;
The results speak for themselves! At any given time, Avaaz campaigners can reach out and touch the lives of tens of millions of people. As a result, they have saved lives, reversed government policies, prevented corporate mergers, freed political prisoners, preserved huge tracts of rain forest, reduced corporate investment in coal, won victories on international treaties, protected animals from poachers and contributed to the banning of cluster bombs, protection of bees and preservation of oceans (more).
By way of contrast...
Avaaz is a new, light and open organisation, very much in the 21st century model. At the other end of the scale is the United Nations, set up in 1945, with 193 members states, offices worldwide, about 45,000 employees and a budget of about $US 5.4 billion. Central to their work is an over-arching campaign: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is without doubt the most ambitious campaign in the world today. In formally endorsing the SDGs, the member states have agreed to: "end poverty, hunger and inequality, take action on climate change and the environment, improve access to health and education, build strong institutions and partnerships, and more."
In the past, the United Nations has had a hard time with its campaigns. There are international days (and weeks and years and decades) for this and that, but the popular media have long since tuned out in regards to this schedule. Furthermore, many of the campaigns you have heard of originated with the UN Foundation, which is not part of the UN system, and does not receive any UN funding (more).
Furthermore, the U.N. has 193 member states, offices worldwide and an annual budget of $US 5.4 billion.
worldwide reach and serious resources to call upon. But hell, even the name is dull. Sustainable what now?
https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/takeaction/. .e. The ICFTU, for instance,